Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Looking For God in All the Wrong Places

Last weekend, the deacon intimated in his homily that why would we look elsewhere for God when we can find him here in our Church?  It will be the jumping off point for my homily this weekend on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, but with nearly 700 miles of driving in the car since then, I have had a lot of time to think.  The deacon asked a fair question; it has stuck in my head as to why so many have looked for God elsewhere.  They have.  In fact, the overwhelming majority have.  This begs the questions, then, as to whether or not we DO find God in Church, and if we do, have we done such a poor job of making that obvious.

Can we find God in a way in Church that we cannot find anyplace else?  The majority of Catholics, let alone those in western societies would shout back a resounding no! The believe that God can be found in nature, in the quiet of  a morning walk, in the silence of a fishing boat or deer stand.  They believe God can be found in their hearts.  Are they wrong?  No.  Before anyone thinks I have slipped into pantheism, the created works of the Lord can indeed point towards their Creator.  But always in an incomplete way.  They can point to his power, his beauty, his peace; but always in incomplete ways.  I can look at a picture of an individual.  I can fall in love with that image.  However that is not the same as having a relationship with that individual.  The incompleteness can leave us restless.

So why do people seem content with such?  As one who thought I was content with that in my early 20's, I can tell you that for me it was peace without drama.  I love nature.  My vacations always seem to focus on the outdoors, especially hiking.  I find a solace and power of God in the quiet paths I have hiked; in the incredible vistas I have witnessed.  I have been enthralled by the intricacy and beauty of the created order in its natural element.  In that oft sought after stillness, I found a stillness in my soul; a stillness so often obscured by the drama and business of life.  As a young Catholic, my experience of the Catholic faith was rarely calming, rarely transcendent.  It was hubbub of confusion.

I apologize ahead, but in all honesty, I felt the Mass to be a poorly executed Broadway play that craved my approval and attention.  Homilies were oftentimes self help claptrap or  a bad standup act.  The few exceptions were the serious as a heart attack money homilies or the 'you're going to hell' homilies.  Very little pointed away from the congregation or priest.  Even though I doubt I would have been cognizant enough at the time to say this, I felt the Church was a fraternal organization with a lot of rules that they may or may not believe.  If those that should have committed didn't, why should I?  All of this seemed insufficient to deal with the problems life threw at me, so I left.  There were two larger than life Catholics that did command my attention and admiration, St John Paul II and Bl. Theresa of Calcutta.  However the former was treated as a nice man and the latter was a do-gooder.  I could do these things without Church.  However these two would play central into my return to the Church.

What I was looking for was transcendence.  I wanted something that was beyond myself.  I got glimpses of that in nature and in relationships I started to develop through dating women.  But even this I found unconvincing on its own.  For me, this led to anger and frustration.  The U2 song popular at the time,  "Where the Streets have no Name" resounded with me. Its lyrics were a pining for the transcendent.  That's where I was and not sure where to find it.  My heart was restless and frustrated and damned if I were going to try religion again.  I had done that and found it lacking.

I really do believe that is where the vast majority of our people are at.  We are exhausted.  We want to find a safe harbor.  It evades us.  When these people do wander into our churches , what do they see?  Do we point to the transcendent or to where we already are?  What I found, initially, when I came back after 5 years of wandering, was essentially what I left.  There were a lot of good people.  I still wasn't seeing the transcendent.  Then I met a man, Leo Baxter, who had a a profound love for God.  He wasn't in love with a concept, but with a person.  For Leo that was most completely seen in the Eucharist.  He was no simpleton.  His faith was so profound, that it pointed to the transcendent.  I wanted that badly.  I started to realize that even through all of the distractions of Mass, that the Invisible God made Himself visible.  There was no turning back then.  I understood this same God wanted me home.  I realized that at the door of the confessional stood the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, far too overjoyed to see His wayward son come home to chastise him for his faithlessness.  I was home.

However, the things that drove me away were still there.  I had not yet fully committed to the idea of seminary again (yes, I lost my faith while in the seminary).  I initially ran...and ran hard.  I am not sure what happened or when it happened, but I was resolved that IF I were to say yes to God's call, I didn't want to create the same atmosphere that caused me to leave.  I wasn't going to give up marriage and family for the merely immanent.  For the transcendent, I would.

I am sure that if we want to get generations back, it is going to be by showing them something different.  Their restless hearts don't want to be entertained (even they might think as such), they want to be fulfilled!  What they see  and experience when they enter our doors has to point to that.  We indeed do have something that even the most fulfilling fishing trip. hunt, hike, or ball game can not provide.  We have the Invisible God made visible!  We have the Word made Flesh who dwelt among us!  No trite emotional ditty that sounds like everything else in their worlds conveys that!  No, this isn't about a feeling or emotion...it is about awe.  This is about the Eucharist! 

It can't end there though.  Catholicism isn't a private religious experience.  It is one lived in an ecclesia, a gathering...a church.  Within that Church  is a direct destination which calls us beyond ourselves.  I said earlier that St John Paul II and Bl. Theresa of Calcutta played heavily into my return.  The more I looked beyond the media generated personas. I saw two people of incredible faith whose faith provoked them to courage and strength. I wanted that.  My sojourn in the wastelands always left me feeling little and powerless.  The more I developed that relationship with God, the more I was drawn into something greater than myself.  With that came freedom and courage.  I have finally found what I was looking for.

I am not saying that all out there are where I was; many are.  If we are going to draw them back or in, then it is going to be by showing the beauty of the truth...we can offer them what the world can't.  In Christ and His Church, they will find a home.  We can't lowball it.  We have to get this right.  Too many are looking for God in the wrong places, if for no other reason that we didn't show them God when they were in right place.  Yes, this God will challenge us to holiness, to conquer vice and adopt virtue.  Yes, this transcendent God will want us to look nothing like the world.  All the better.

We can complain that my parish doesn't do this or that.  However, I want you to recall...it wasn't a parish that showed me that faith first..it was  a man who believed that did.  If enough of us do this, it will transform our parishes into places where those seeking God will find God...in  a way so much more powerful than they can find outside of Church.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Apparitions, Locutions, and Seers Oh My!

On more than a few occasions in my 19 years as a priest, I have met an individual who has told me they have seen Jesus, Mary, some saint or so on.  I have also been pulled aside by good Catholics who have seen me talk to such people and speak in hushed tones  about said things and act as if somehow the person were in need of psychological help and heavy medication. I shrug my shoulders and say, "Such things are in the tradition and history of the Church."  This doesn't mean I accept or believe every person who says such, but that I will allow it it to be within the realm of possibility until proven that it isn't.    I'll not be one to tell God what He can or cannot do. 

Certainly, that appearances have happened, messages given (locution), and such have happened is definitely part of the rich tapestry that is the Catholic faith.  Think Lourdes, Fatima, LaSalette, Guadalupe, Knock and many other approved apparitions of Christ and the Blessed Mother.  We believe that Mary herself was visited by the Archangel Gabriel.  However not every apparition turned out to be legitimate, Bayside NY, comes to mind.  In most every case the seers were discounted, thought mad, accused of blasphemy and deceit. Some were even persecuted.  The Church does not discount such possibilities no more than it discounts out of hand demonic possession or the movement of the devil.  In either case, criteria are used to sift the chaff from the wheat; the truth from the lies. 

The Church does believe in the operation of the supernatural in human events.  However, such is tested.  Eliminations are made.  Psychological, physiological, environmental, and mental factors are eliminated.  Sometimes people do lie to get attention.  Sometimes there is something psychologically wrong.  Sometimes the unknown presence of environmental factors are found.  These must be eliminated as factors.

So what is the the next step once these have been eliminated and something is happening.  Next we must be sure of its origin,  We remember that the devil is the master of deceit and will appear as an angel of light in order to cause confusion and division.  We then look at the messages of these visits. Nothing of God will overturn revealed truth.  The Church, and by that I mean the official Magisterium  of the Church, goes through the messages and looks at their content and compares it to revealed truth.   Nothing Of God will go against it, nothing of the devil will stick fully with it.  That which is found wanting is condemned.  Usually the Church will wait until the event has ended.  It would be horrific if the Church were to declare something to be true only to have the messages take a very decided turn away from revealed truth.  This is why, in so many ways, the event at Medjugorje is still not fully approved; the locutions have not ceased.

There is also the matter of the fruits born of the event.  Does it lead to the greater adherence to the faith and develop our relationship with God?  All apparitions of God lead us closer to God and not closer to a personality.  With the rise of net, it is hard to personally sift what is what.  Some will spawn conspiracy theories as to why the church didn't approve of something.  Some will gain followers because of the bombast and apocalyptic feel.  Me?  Let's stick to what we know.  We know the approved.  We know that the devotional life is good.  If we are on something and the site sounds like a cult of personality, it probably is and we should flee.  Nothing of God will incite division within the Body of Christ.  Nothing!     

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Defines You as a Man?

There are days when the battles get intense.  There are days when I get struck a harsh blow and get knocked to the ground. There are days when I want to exit the battlefield and just go with the current.  Thankfully, I cannot bring myself to that; the Scriptural exhortation about turning the other cheek rings in my ears.  You see, turning the other cheek isn't weakness.  You cannot run away and turn the other cheek at the same time.  You must stand your ground.  If that means picking up the sword an shield again, then that is what it means.  If it means getting thrust into the heat of the battle, then that is what it means,  What you do when you get knocked down as a man has much to do with what you allow to define you as a man.

God has one definition of you and the world has a another.  Both are based on what they desire you to be.  The world, nowadays, wants you to stay a boy.  It will encourage you to give into your passions, want ease and pleasure, to show little to no discipline or remorse.  Why?  Boys are easy to manipulate.  They are easy to bully.  God, on the other hand, expects something quite different and has created you to be not just a man, but a warrior.  The mettle of strength comes from the discipline of virtue.  Like a well tempered sword, the man as desired by God, is strong, lucid, and fearless before what would defeat him. He might get knocked down, but he is never defeated.  He might stumble through sin, but like a wise warrior, he recognizes it and addresses it through confession before it defeats him.

Where a boy cries over a pricked finger, the man of God bears his battle scars as badges of honor.  God does not want you to remain a boy, but grow into a strong man, a first class warrior who is worthy of being the protector and provider of those God places into his care.  A boy relies on his own strength; an act of hubris.  The man looks to his general, Christ, and models His life after His.

Make no mistake.  Jesus was no fair haired wimp, no hapless victim, no peace and love hippie.  He was bold and came into this world to take on a fearsome enemy, the devil himself.  He preached a Gospel and performed miracle after miracle...provoking the devil and his minions. earthly and otherwise.  Just when they thought they had him cornered at the Cross, just when they defeated Him at the crucifixion, he outflanked them and beat them by that cross and on the day of the Resurrection.  Jesus did not shrink away from a fight; he did not tell us to hold our ground and not hold His.  He didn't rely on the trinkets of pleasure, power, and wealth to conquer.  No, in fact, he told those who would follow him to cast such trinkets aside and engage in battle.  His hapless little group of disciples, infused with the Holy Spirit, boldly set out for all parts of the known world and made known the Gospel, even if it meant their deaths. 

Wouldn't it be great to have such fearlessness and boldness?!  Wouldn't it be great to be so full of holy boldness so as to be able to look at the forces of evil and say you have no power over me!?  This is the boldness that led St Maximilian Kolbe to stand up to the Nazis and to offer his life for another, even when the death to be suffered would be cruel.  It led St John Paul II to study for the priesthood when such was punishable by death.  It led St. Isaac Jocques to return to the Americas after having suffered at the hands of the Mohawk and Huron, and GO RIGHT BACK, even under threat of death and preach the Gospel to them anyway.  Over the centuries it has provoked courage and strength in many men to  forge into battle, knowing that even if they got struck down, they were still on the winning side.  Don't you want to be that stouthearted man?  I do!

Life is unfair.  People you rightfully should be able to count on can and will turn to be your persecutor and not you brother in arm. You will get knocked down time to time by those you trusted.  Trust no man, lay or cleric, over God.  If you have to stand your ground, then do it.  Christ wins...don't lose sight of that!  Fear keeps the warrior off the field.  So many young men won't even consider priesthood because of boyish fear.  So many men won't commit to marriage for the same boyish fear.  When we abandon the field, those who should have been able to count on us suffer the consequences as well.  That, my friend, is on us.

Want to be that man who stands his ground, who isn't ruled by fear?  Hone the virtues in your life.  See worldly pursuits as beneath your dignity as an adopted son of God!  This society and our families and churches need us be that warrior who stands his ground, who doesn't get bullied, and who doesn't lose sight of the victory.  Christ wins.  Know it!  Act on it!

Friday, May 20, 2016

An Open Letter to the High School Class of 2016

I have never done this before, but year after year as a pastor I have seen the youth of my parish enter into the bigger badder worlds of college, full time employment, or military.  I am a person who watches society very carefully; I have to, my parishioners live and interact with the society every day.  I know for you freshly minted high school graduates that world you enter resembles very little the world I graduated into back in 1983.  However, in most ways, the core challenges remain very much the same, even if the methods under which they come are different.

Essentially, many felt that when they were in High School that many external forces were trying to define you: school, family, religion, and the list goes on and on.  There can be a feeling that now I can define myself, I will have a freedom I didn't have before.  To some extent this true, but largely it isn't.  It is true to the extent that most of you will be living most of the time outside of the home.  You will have some greater freedom in movement; but that freedom comes at the cost of safety nets.  However, the desire to pressure you into being a person according to another person's definition doesn't go away, it only intensifies.  It stays there for the rest of your life.  How you negotiate it and how you choose to move will develop the kind of person you are.

I am a priest.  Of course I am going to make the plea that you allow the primary influence of who you become to be defined by our faith.  Why?  Because I really do believe that if our Catholic faith is lived correctly, we have the power to transform the world.  Hence, I ask you to guard yourself against the following and to adapt the following:

A) Don't play the victim.  The world will want you to believe you are a victim; helpless and put upon.  It wants this because then you can be manipulated.  It will incite anger and division.  It will stir up your emotions with a righteous indignation.  Don't buy it!  To be sure, there is much injustice in the world.  As long as you're a victim, you'll never be able to rise above it.  Change comes from getting involved and utilizing the gifts God has given you.  No institution has ever been reformed from the outside.  The only change that come from the outside is the destruction of an institution, which is exactly what those manipulating you will want. They will not fully tell you what they intend to put in its place.  Don't become their useful idiots.  Know that for all the harm and hurt that is a part of life, that the Gospel well lived, moves us beyond victim status to hero status.  Be a Mother Theresa and not a Robespierre.

B) Don't make pleasure your master.  Pleasure is an exacting master who is never satiated.  If we order our lives to pleasure, we will be perpetually unhappy.  You might well have heard that nothing in life worth having is easy.  That is completely true.  Excellence in anything requires sacrifice and discipline.  Pleasure is not evil by nature, but it can't be sought after so much so that it becomes an impediment to growth.  If life is about the next beer, the next high, the next sexual encounter then life loses any zest and is replaced by enslavement to the passions.  God did not create us to be slaves, no, He created us to be free; to be unencumbered by the iron weight sin piles on us.

C) Don't be entitled.  The world owes you nothing.  It does not owe you respect.  It does not owe you  anything and will take as much as it can and dispose of you like a fruit rind as soon as it gets what it wants.    There is really no such thing as free; there is making someone else pay for it, but there is no such thing as free.  Being entitled will lead you to no good place.  It will wreck your life and stymie it from ever growing to the excellence to which it is capable.  Entitlement wastes God's grace and gifts planted in you.  God's grace is free, but He will not force you to anything.  You will however reap the rewards or suffer the punishment of said choices.

D) Show restraint.  Not every word that passes through your brain needs to exit your mouth.  Our words and actions have consequences.  They do.  Be aware of that.  Being the bigger person is important.  Letting go of grudges is necessary for growth.  Be aware that I might want to follow my passion but there might well be no job market for it.  Be aware that debt has to be paid back. Save money.  Live simply.  God has given us free will, we are not driven by instinct merely.  This is especially true for our electronic footprint.  The post about you getting wasted might seem like fun at the time...potential employers will not share your judgement on this.  Sexting might seem dangerous and fun, but those pictures will be out in internet for the rest of your life.  Remember, you tell people so much of the time how to perceive you.  Don't be upset if you presented yourself as cheap and other people defined you by it. You are better than that and worth so much more than that.

E) Be humble. Know your strengths and develop them.  Know your failings and correct them.  Lying to ourselves about who we are is probably the stupidest and most harmful thing we can do.  Truth sets us free.  It gives us freedom of movement.  Humility is the base of true growth; growth in faith especially.  God gives us his help where we need to build and His forgiveness (if we ask for it) when we fail. Humility allows us to see we need Him and we need our relationships with family and Church.   Humility reminds us we are not alone.  Humility gets us through the strongest of storms.

I want to see each and every reader of this succeed in this life and in the life to come.  We all should. If we are true to wanting to go ad make our mark in this world, if we want to make a positive mark it will be by staying grounded in the above things.  May God bless you with an abundance of His grace as you make your next step in life.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Roman Catholic Man and the Virtue of Love

It is my belief that fewer words are so horribly misused in western culture than the word 'love.' Most see love as an emotion.  It burns hot one minute and freezes over the next.  We fall in and out of love.   This is nothing new. For the Greeks, they had three different words for love: eros, philos, and agape.  The three could not be interchanged.  Eros described the desire that someone had for something or someone.  Philos /philia described the fondness for something or someone.  Agape is a total self giving.  It could be said that eros seeks what you can do for me, philos seeks mutual accommodation, and agape focuses on what I can do for you.  Eros is not used in the Bible.  Philos is rarely used.  Agape, is almost exclusively used every time the word 'love' comes up in the Scriptures.

Agape is a virtue that requires the self gift of God first before we can respond. St John  says in his first epistle that, "We love, because He first loved us." (I John 4:19)  It is a virtue, which means that it is something that grows within us because of the discipline of intentional self-giving.  For the Roman Catholic man, this virtue is the prime motivator of all of the other virtues, both cardinal and theological.  We seek prudence because we love.  We seek to have self-control because we love.  We give to another what they need because we love.  We stand strong because we love.  We set our priorities towards the things of heaven because we love.  We act in deference and obedience to the will of God because we love.  The Roman Catholic Man who cultivates the virtue of love is the tower of strength that is needed so badly in the family and the parish!  The more he cultivates the divine gift of love, the stronger his relationship with God and the stronger his relationship with others.

When love is misdirected and ordered to the things of the world, it is the most destructive of forces.  St Paul tells us the love of money is the root of all evil ( I Timothy 6:10).  In fact, there is another word for this:lust. As the virtue of love is completely self giving, the deadly sin of lust is a perversion of love, a complete taking. Lust reduces a person as a means to an end.  Whether that end is sexual pleasure, wealth. power, possessions, fame, or influence , lust will drain all dignity from the other so as to satiate the self.

Love is the summation of the virtues.  The greatest summation of love for the Roman Catholic man is Jesus Christ on the cross.  The selflessness of the virtue of love is willing to suffer and sacrifice for what is loved.  To give an example, I remember years ago that my dad fed himself last at dinner.  We were poor.  I thought it was just what a man did as a matter of honor.  He never complained about it.  Out of respect we would save the biggest piece of chicken for him.  What he was doing , though, was making sure his wife and children got fed first.  It is a small gesture.  But the virtue of love leads us to gladly put the needs of others first, especially the needs of those placed in our care.  It is something that grows as it is practiced.

When we Roman Catholic men look at the world around us we can see the triumph of lust over love in this society.  Pleasure comes first.  Fun comes first.  Recreation or faith?  Recreation comes first.  We see the reign of entitlement in our culture.  Many want everything for free; life is about someone else satiating me!  There is no other course for this to go other than a complete breakdown of the culture.

We Roman Catholic men need to stand tall in witness to what the actual virtue of love can do and what it looks like.  Marriage will only last for as long as the complete self giving virtue of love is its anchor.  Many will say that the latest trend to same sex marriage has destroyed the institution of marriage.  That is like saying the bulldozer took down the skyscraper.  No the wrecking ball did. Decade after decade after decade.  That wrecking ball was the acceptance of divorce, artificial birth control, promiscuity, pornography, and abortion.  These things are inconsistent with self-giving love.  They are its natural enemy.  In fact, every major breakdown we have can be directly attributed to the lack of ability or desire to cultivate the virtue of love.

To the Roman Catholic man called to marriage: You cannot have a healthy marriage and family life without cultivating the virtue of love.  After God, your wife comes first!  She is not your servant, slave, or prostitute.  You are to love her with the same self-giving love with which Christ loved us on the Cross!  That love will matter as you teach your children , with your wife, what to love God and each other looks like.  I as a pastor and teacher can talk about love until I am blue in the face and it'll not matter one iota if you are not modeling it in the family.  I invite you go to I Corinthians 13 and read St Paul's description of the virtue of love; of its qualities and properties.  That, good sir, is the standard of excellence to which we are held and by which we will be judged by God! If this love is lived in the family, it will strengthen every entity to which that family belongs...especially your local parish.

To the Roman Catholic man called to be a priest: As the Persona Christi, we are to be the very image of the virtue of love.  Can we imitate St. Paul, who refers to himself being poured out like a libation for those he was called to bring the Gospel of Christ?  Can we look at our relationship with God and those placed under our care using the same standard of St. Paul's description of love in I Corinthians 13?  Are we patient and kind?  Do people see us as such or as temperamental?  Woe to us if our flocks grow scared of us for fear of wrath or neglect!  Do we gladly call when beckoned in an emergency?  Will we live simply so as to show a detachment from the world and an adherence to God?  Love never compromises truth.  Do we through our preaching and teaching extol our sheep to such excellent heights?

This kind of love is not easy.  However the more we practice it, the more natural it becomes.  The more it is practiced the more it can be the salt that is needed, the light that is needed. To be sure, we will fail both in time and eternally if we fail at love.  For nothing of lust can enter the Kingdom of Heaven; no selfishness, no narcissism, no self-aggrandizement. To be joined in eternal union with God, who is love, requires us to utilize the divine grace and gift of love so that our lives become an answer to God's love.  Make no mistake: You'll not be a true man, a true Roman Catholic, or a man of any virtue without love.



   

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gladys Kravitz Must Die!!!!!

I will admit, I am showing my age on this one.  Gladys Kravitz.  Wife of Abner Kravitz on the old sitcom Bewitched.  She always had her nose at the window, peeking through the curtains, spying on what they neighbors were doing. Her husband, was largely disinterested in her ravings as she screamed "Abner, Abner!!"  every time something funny or weird happened.  He was always sorry he listened.  Mrs. Kravitz evidently had many many children who shared her predilection for  gossip, because Lord knows they are forever screaming for our attention!!  Social media has given her a megaphone.  No tall tale seems to be too much.  It is telling that sites such as Snopes has become a full time thing to separate the truth from the lies. 

There are different types of Gladys Kravitzes our there.  There are the religious watchdogs who are just sure Pope Francis (or whoever is the Pope at the time) is saying exactly what the secular press says he is saying.  They show all the discernment of a hungry dog in a dumpster.  They are quick to post all kinds of things, make sweeping generalizations about things they don't like (yes, clown masses are of course what every single Novus Ordo Mass does), and are quicker than warp speed (right to ludicrous speed) to make condemnations.  Heaven forfend any of them actually look at original texts!  NO NO NO!!!  Abner, Abner!!! Pope Francis just said  women can dance the Watusi on the pulpit during Mass!!!  The AP says so!  *sigh*  At the least they are indulging in detraction, at worst they are indulging in calumny...both of which are sinful.

Then you have the political Gladys Kravitzes.  They posts all kinds of slanderous things about candidates they don't like from websites that make Pravda (back in the old USSR days) look like reputable reporting.  Of course just as questionable propaganda pieces in favor of their candidate are spoken of with the reverence of a canonization ceremony.  Outlandish doesn't even begin to describe the gossip; evidently slander is fair game in politics.  We wonder why we get the quality individuals we get?  By the way...I really hate politics.

Then you have the Gladys Kravitzes who wile away on the latest exploits of their favorite stars, athletes, singers, and such. Entire networks are dedicated to this (even you ESPN).  I really could go for the rest of my life without hearing the latest sexual exploits, boneheaded decisions, or catfights brewing.  It is none of my business.  Really it isn't.  Neither are the personal passive aggressive attacks that are a mainstay on sites like Facebook. 

The whole sordid process has fueled the abnormal as normal motif.  It is depressing.  It has no place in any person's life who calls themselves a Christian.  We are supposed to better than this because we are to love.  Exposing another person's faults, real or perceived, as entertainment ( a virtual Thunderdome) is sinful.  Period.  If someone has done wrong, pray for them!  Because a person is a public figure does not make it fair game in some blood sport where I prop myself up by making others look bad.   So please, for the love and survival of western civilization, please let us put the nonsense to rest and regulate the Mrs Kravitzes to the old sitcom world where she originally was. 

The Roman Catholic Man and the Virtue of Faith

Now we venture into the theological virtue of faith.  What is faith?  Is it the same as belief?  Not entirely, for St. James tells us in his epistle that the demons believe and shudder (James 2:19).  Belief is part of the equation, obedience to belief is the other part.  As faith is a theological virtue, it is not one we can cultivate by merely our own strength, but as a response to God's gift.  Jesus reminds us that no one comes to Him unless the father beckons.  This is why we believe that a man cannot call himself faithful yet act in disobedience to God.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Faith is ordered to obedience.  Faith seeks the will of God, craves it, and devours it once found. Faith manifest a trust in God's will and providence for us.  It is why the Church cannot see itself in opposition to the revealed truth of God.  It is why the Church does not change its teachings on faith and morals: faith demands obedience to no man over God, even if that 'no man' is myself. To be obedient to the will of God necessitates knowing the will of God.

Herein is the crisis we face in the developed world: We have switched allegiance from God to the world.  For many, even those in the pews and pulpits, faith has been transferred to the world.  We place more credence in money, power, and pleasure than we do in God.  We believe that the world can offer us comfort here and now.  We even reshape heaven into an eternal prolongation of such self-indulgence.  That we would submit our will to God and His Church is ridiculed; our will is God's will now.  He'll just have to understand.  Ego non serviam!  "I will not serve!"  These are the words poet John Milton places in the mouth of Satan as he rebels against God.  When true faith in God breaks down, we no longer respond to Him, but to the world.

Jesus assures us that He is oriented to our good; whether it be the image of the Good Shepherd or the Cross itself, Jesus gives us reason to have faith. But faith, again, is ordered to obedience.

Disobedience cannot co-exist with faith; one must choose one over the other.  This disobedience finds itself in acceptance of sin as the necessary norm: the acceptance of artificial birth control, cohabitation, every and all sexual deviancy, porn, the redefinition of marriage and family, eugenics, abortion, greed, apathy, and such are destroying the nation all under the false definition of tolerance.  We cannot say God bless America and then run Him out of every imaginable institution and avenue of our life.

The Roman Catholic man must cultivate this divine gift of the virtue of faith.  How does he do that?  First it is important to actively seek to know what we believe and why we believe it.  God doesn't want blind faith; the Catholic faith is a reasoned faith.  We believe what we believe for a reason.  That men see learning as beneath them gives the devil a superhighway in which to operate.  The devil LOVES ignorance, especially intentional ignorance!    Ignorance leaves open rampant disobedience.  We, as men, can memorize tons of useless information: sports stats, song lyrics, and such.  Our minds need better food than that!  With the offerings we have now available, there is no reason for ignorance to remain.  To cultivate the virtue of faith means we have to actively engage in getting to know the faith.

It does not remain there though.  No, the harder part is to realign one's life with that knowledge.  The Roman Catholic man knows true knowledge must be positively acted upon.  He knows that there is no room to compromise away truth.  He is steadfast in his obedience to the will of God.  He also knows that when he hasn't been, when his faith has waned, that it must be addressed through the seeking of forgiveness, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation.  He sees willful disobedience as anathema to his relationship with God and with those around him.

To the Roman Catholic man called to marriage: you CANNOT execute your role as spiritual head of the home without cultivating the virtue of faith.  Your being spiritual role is not to be delegated to your wife (she has roles to do, she shouldn't have to do yours as well) and is not to be ignored without severe consequence.  As you and your wife are the primary teachers of your children in the ways of the faith, you can only give that which you have.  You owe it to those placed in your care to be a man of faith: both in knowledge and execution.  The faith of the dad is a major predictor of the faith of the children.  The faith of the father is also a major factor in the rise of priestly vocations. You are the model of faith.  Your faith either nourishes or poisons your family's faith.  So what are you doing to enrich your knowledge, belief, and execution of faith?  It's not an option if you are to be serious about your role.

To the Roman Catholic man called to priesthood: Father, you are the parish what a dad is to his family.  I remember in the seminary our professors begging us to not allow or education to end upon ordination.  Has yours?  I am sorry, but reading a periodical about what other people have to say about things rather than actually looking at and studying primary documents is intellectual sloth.  Do we offer adult education classes?  We all bemoan the lack of knowledge of the faith among our parishioners, what are we doing to change that?   Do you study the Scriptures?  Do you soak in the instruction available through the Divine Office?  Why is this important?  You tell your parishioners your faith every time you preach, every time you celebrate Mass.  Our faith or lack thereof can be contagious.  Our response in obedience to faith will either nourish or poison our flocks.

Faith is not easy.  It is a intentional discipline we which cultivate everyday.  As Roman Catholic men, we can ill afford infidelity.  If we are to be the salt in our society that we are called to be, faith is an absolute necessity.